Saturday, March 7, 2015

Literary Ninjas | Short Discussion #001: To Detail or Not to Detail

Type | Short Discussion

Topic | The depth of description for setting in a literary work.

One of the many mistakes that young and/or beginning writers seem to make is forgetting to actually describe the setting. Oftentimes, it's in conjunction with forgetting to describe the character as well. This might sound familiar: you begin to read a story that jumps right into action. Cue an epic and well-described fight scene with lots of tension and description. The enemy is written to be a ninja, wearing india-ink black, with fishnet sleeves and a mask revealing only his cold, glittering eyes. We even get minute-details about the thickness of the armor he is wearing beneath his uniform to protect him from the torrential blows the protagonist is laying upon him....but just who the heck is this protagonist? What does he look like? Or is he even a he? Oh, dear, the author's forgotten all about that.

And just where on earth is this duel taking place? Is it even on Earth? What does that leave us with? We've got this epic battle going on between this heartless killer and...the invisible man? Oh, and they're fighting in blank, white space.

However, as important as this is, as I've grown as a writer over the years, I've come to re-learn that there was an alternate technique: making use of not describing the setting in depth as a literary device. One of the things that I loved about reading as a child was the vivid pictures that I, myself, came up with in my mind, based upon how much--or how little--the author gave me in description. Isn't that supposed to be the whole point of books--using your imagination? Yet, somehow, I feel that people have gotten so caught up in making everything "more real" in movies and books (for example, with the rise of books about zombies and viral outbreaks, every minute detail of a science fiction-like "experiment" plot line now absolutely has to have some legitimate, in-depth scientific research or else it gets torn apart for not being believable, etc.) that they've forgotten that it's supposed to be make believe.

Now, it's a literary crime if you do not lay out the setting and character description immediately upon beginning the book, for each and every scene. Seriously? When did people get so lazy that they can't use their own brains to fill in the details? It's become a lost art now to use one's imagination, apparently. I'm not sure if it's the terror of the thought that one's literature is going to be ripped to shreds by the vicious animals out there that stops this "technique" from being used, or some other literary taboo that I'm not aware of, but I'd like to see this put back into use.

Join the fight against laziness and use your brains!

*SHORT DISCUSSION RULES*

Responses must…

…be in coherent English with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
…consist of 300 words minimum.
…take a side in the discussion, either for or against, with at least one supporting reason (cite specific examples) for why you agree or disagree.
…be a legitimate argument. “It’s stupid,” “You suck,” and related responses are forbidden.

Look familiar? You may recognize these prompts from the late blog, Literary Ninjas, and DeviantART literature group, Writing-For-Fun. With my choice to close both, I still wanted to make the prompts available to those interested, and thus they will be posted here on Sleepy Hollow Street.

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